Whose lie is it anyway? The filth and the fury

December 10, 2008 at 11:10 pm (Culture, Politics) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Torn, I am. Conflicting feelings boil in me, and one moment I’d like the law to grab one of those little oversexed tweens and shove him (or her) in solitary for a couple of hours; and the next I wonder how far I could throw an Amstel bottle filled with gasoline, and whether it would reach the windows of Parliament.

I felt like spitting when I saw Nikitas Kaklamanis, the Mayor of Athens, tonight posing for a photo-op in front of the newly lit up Dromeas (The Runner) sculpture – less than a mile from Syntagma metro station, which was closed due to yet more tear gas-tinged episodes at the very moment he was admiring the ugly piece of shiny glass. What did they think? That the blue lights would somehow make the view from the Hilton balconies prettier? That if we ignore them, they’ll run out of beer bottles to make Molotovs and go home?

This won’t just extinguish itself. I don’t understand why they haven’t realized it yet. Um, Excuse me? New Democracy? (What a joke for a name.) I’m so sorry that you happened to be in government at this time – I truly feel for you, you Emo Administration, that we have the Nth scandal on your watch – but it is your watch, and you have to do something. Resign, if you want, but DO SOMETHING. Show your damn face. Don’t fly off to Brussels tomorrow, you chicken. And just so you don’t think you’ll wake up and it will all have gone away, there are 21 events planned for tomorrow, http://athens.indymedia.org/ informs us.

Then again, I felt even more disgusted when I read that when the Dean of Thessaloniki’s Law School entered his offices, protected from armed forced by the blessing of asylum – only to find them completely vandalized and robbed. Computers, phones, paperwork, books – I saw fires Monday night inside Athens Polytechnic, but I tried to convince myself they were being careful and respectful.  Eh, no. No. No, this is not why university asylum is enshrined in law – it is utter heresy to vandalize the place that gives you such shelter.

And just when I’ve had enough of seeing looting and mindless destruction, and I veer all authoritarian – that’s when I read this. http://www.skai.gr/master_story.php?id=103521

Firstly, Rambo picks Alexis Kougias to represent him. The sleaziest, dirtiest, most attention-seeking lawyer of the nation. Smooth move, Ex-Lax. He then goes on to say what a proper copper he is, and what a spoiled little rich boy Alex and his hooligan ilk are – and does not ever, at any point express sorrow that the boy died by his trigger hand. Even if it was a damn ricochet, as you testify, and even if you didn’t notice a bloody body fall at your feet as you walked away – how can you not be sorry? How?

And visions of burning police stations dance all through my head. (To the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” no less.)

Fuck this. I’m going to go watch Euripides’ “Bacchae” at Poreia Theater. 3-5 Trikorof Street, off 3 September Street, right next to Victoria Station. It’s right next to the Polytechnic’s bacchanals of fury. And I’ve just got word that they are heroically playing on for anyone who cares to come on over. Let’s all go. Wear a scarf, bring some vaseline just in case, leave your television sets and your blogs, and let’s all go downtown. Let’s drink beers on the sidewalks and watch. If there are more of us than there are cops and vandals then something may happen. Or not. But waiting passively for the next corrupt and inept government, that we ourselves vote in, to come along and then whine about them is really no answer.


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The Guns of Tzavella

December 9, 2008 at 12:26 am (Culture, music, Politics) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I love this city fiercely. Almost protectively. When something wonderful happens, my chest feels like it may burst from pride. I wanted my next blogpost to be about the Beggars’ Operas. I truly did. It was one of those times where my love for Athens and Athenian culture simply surges with joy.  I was composing the post in my head after their incredible performance of Verdi’s  ‘Il Trovatore” at the Bios warehouse venue a few days ago. Just a bunch of extremely talented twenty and thirty-somethings dressed in everyday clothes singing with expression and pathos, just inches away from the audience. The orchestra was comprised of an accordion, guitar, piano, trumpet, and cymbals – and still managed to convey the suspenseful lyricism of Verdi’s score. I cried like a fool from Miserere onwards.

But right now, I just don’t feel like writing about art. Or joy. Or love.

On Saturday, December 6, 2008, I unwittingly went for a peek on the wild side after taking Jenny to see Melted Butter.  At first, I couldn’t understand why Patision Avenue and Amerikis Square were so jam-packed at midnight. Grumbling, I decided to cut through the law courts and Exharxia to get over to Gazi – I knew she’d love K44 club over by the railroad tracks. We entered Spirou Trikoupi at approximately half-past midnight – little did we know that, by then, Exharxia had turned into a full-blown war zone since the 9:15 in-cold-blood shooting of a 15-year-old by the police.

I pointed to the neo-classical building at number 34. “See, Jenny? That’s where I spent four years of my life! Isn’t it pretty?” Jenny was not paying attention. She was gazing in horror in front of us. At the corner of Tossitsa and  Spirou Trikoupi three dumpsters were blazing. The heavy scent of tear gas was in the air. Jenny’s friend stated firmly that she was scared and did not want to go any further.

Well. I couldn’t exactly tell to get out of my car and walk back to Ampelokipous, now, could I? I slowly wove my way around the burning dumpsters in order to check out what was going on, regretfully turning back towards civilization – but not before a bunch of police in riot gear (who ignored both the flaming roadblocks and a few youths breaking a car about 50 yards away) sneered at me, “Run girlie, run!”


Rage at the smarmy, arrogant bastards, and rage at myself, because I just drove on, tires squealing. I am a Coward. You just shot a boy, and you have the gall to catcall? Is what I did not say. Why didn’t I get out of the car and do… something? Coward.

Rage at the lying cops who insisted that they shot warning bullets in the air because they were surrounded by thirty rock-throwing anarchists. Thankfully, the cops were so stupid as to shoot Andreas Alexandros Grigoropoulos at point blank range at the corner of Tzavella and Messologhiou Streets, which is filled with cafes. Eyewitness accounts relate that after a verbal scuffle between the patrolling cops and a few youths, the cops left, parked their car – then walked back to find the boys and coolly aim at Alex’s chest.

Rage at Anthee Carassava, correspondent for the New York Times, who sticks so religiously to government press releases it’s just plain disgusting. It is now the third day and she won’t even type the dead boy’s name because the government “hasn’t officially released his name yet.”

Really? What a journalist. You remind me of the 1972 White House press corps. By the way ma’am, in case you’re interested, Andreas Alexandros Grigoropoulous’s funeral is tomorrow at 3pm, at Palaio Faliro.

Also, Ms. Carassava, you shold know better than to call Exharxia an “unruly haven of left-wing extremists.” If you really lived here you would know that this is a lively neighborhood filled with cafes, stores, theaters, bars, houses, supermarkets, minimarkets, pharmacies, boutiques, grannies, mothers, junkies, kids, artists – in short, it is a small, cozy microcosm of Athens itself. I have been going out (and practically living there for a while) since I was fifteen and have never, ever felt threatened in the neighborhood at any hour of the night, my car has never been burned, and so on. Is my life that charmed? I think not.

As an ugly cynicism sets in twenty-four hours later, I am glad that mayhem is going on in Trikala, Patra, Chania, Thessaloniki – even Berlin and London ex-pats are doing their share. I am also glad that if someone had to die, then it’s good he was the underage son of a bank manager. Perhaps now justice just might be served. Perhaps the media will now have to rethink their easy labeling of Exharxia as an anarchist ghetto. Perhaps the issue of police brutality in Greece will finally be addressed. As a http://www.skai.gr commentary noted yesterday, Exarxia is everywhere. Unrest and dissatisfaction are everywhere. Cops routinely hit protesters with the hard handle of their rubber baton. Wake up.

But that is beside the point right now. I just came back from the “marches” that were arranged by the Coalition of the Left and the Communist Party.  And now I feel like a fool squared. My idealism and naivete will be my undoing – they have already plunged me into a deep depression.

I had been itching to march since Saturday night, and on Monday I got my chance, as the riots showed no sign of abating – every day more protests and riots were mushrooming all over the country. I was so proud of all the school-age children that protested so peacefully this morning.

So I went to protest myself. And I saw what I did not want to believe.

The fact is, these self-styled anarchists have no ideology whatsoever. It’s not that they mistake anarchy for something else – there is nothing else. They just desire a pretty label for random violence. They don’t actually believe in anything. Apart from fighting and destroying for the hell of it. Supposedly they are anti-establishment.

If so, then they are also mentally challenged.

The killing of an under-age kid by a police officer is the best Christmas present an anti-establishment type can hope for. Apart from Parliament sinking into the ground during a plenary session, I can’t think of anything better. It is cold, hard evidence that the Man is out to get you – with eyewitnesses.

And yet.

Tonight, they burned all of Panepistimiou Street – while the other “peaceful” marchers cheered every Molotov cocktail and rock that was thrown into a bank window. The mania with which they attacked streetlights, bus stops and small shops was almost a wonder to look at. There were no cops, and no provocation. It seemed like the externalized frustration of a would-be rapist who chickens out at the last minute – and then runs over a dog.  It certainly did not seem like they wanted vengeance for the horrific shooting of an unarmed boy.

The atmosphere at the march was heavy, confused. No one knew what to shout, or where to go. I took lots of fuzzy photos. We were surrounded by flaming dumpsters at every turn – there was no way out in case the police attacked. The cops were warily aware of this – they flooded us with tear gas when we got too close, but made no moves to stop the destruction. Possibly they were scared shitless at making another “mistake” – but honestly, you don’t have to shoot someone in the chest to stop him setting fire to an apartment building. There must be a middle way. I’m sure that is part of police training somewhere on this planet.

After running to safety during a brief scuffle with fire and tear gas in Omirou Street, I persuaded Tina to go to Exarxia before we headed home. I just couldn’t leave without going to my favorite square in the city, and damn the baby guerrillas allegedly hiding with Molotovs in narrow streets.

I almost wished there was fighting when we got there. Not even a token oblivious junkie was lounging on the empty benches. It was dark, dirty and desolate. Everything still standing was shuttered close. We picked our way through shards of glass, rubble, extinguished fires and black car-shells. A few rioters hung out nervously near the university gates, ready to bolt back inside at the first sign of trouble.

Teenage looters giggled as they lugged boxes from the destroyed Plaisio Shop. Surreally, I could see a bunch of riot police gazing at them from a safe distance and doing nothing. I was nearly in tears by the time we drank a beer in front of the Archaelogical Museum – we bought it from the only newsstand open within a 2-mile radius, which was doing brisk business with the rioters barred up inside Athens Polytechnic.

And now? The riots are spreading to Athenian suburbs that have never seen such random violence before. And instead of the people raging against murdering police officers (and the reasons why they are so arrogant, rude, undertrained and underpaid) – they demand justice from the anarchists who have gaily burned their livelihoods.

Way to go, guys. And a merry martial law Christmas to you.

and R. I. P. Alex. (1993-2008)

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Election Odyssey: 2008

October 25, 2008 at 11:49 pm (Politics) (, , )

I can’t believe I’ve been obsessing about the US presidential election for over a year – and it still isn’t over! If I compare to what has changed in my own life in this span of time, the stasis of US politics is even more dumbfounding.
Nevertheless, here we are. 10 days to go, and, as Puccini’s Calaf sang desperately, “alba vieni, quest’ incubo dissolvi!”Or will the nightmare go on? That is my fear, and no Cosmix will assuage my anxiety until the 5th. Remember, remember the 5th of November!
If the hype is to be believed, this election is as important as the one of 1972. Perhaps even more so, considering in November 1972 we only suspected the forces of darkness drooling close by.  (I use “we” in a very loose sense; I include my unborn self and those who did not give the culture wars their proper due.)
Let me begin by saying how amazed and confounded I am that there are still people who call themselves undecided. ?#$%^@#&*(*&^!%$!!!!
If you’re not in a coma, people, then I really don’t know what else you want. What more do you need? Do the candidates have come over and carve your jack o’ lantern for you? Do your kids’ homework for you? Go trick-or-treating and, apropos, talk credit crunch and national security? Please.
Yet even more worrying is the matter of those who have eyes, but refuse to see. My dear daddy has been nearing apoplexy every few nights or so, when he chats to one of his oldest friends on Skype, and who, although not a raving religious jingoist, plans to vote for McCain.
He says Obama scares him.
You scare me, dammit, when all you can bleat is socialism and taxes. Can’t you see what is going on? Can you really not care?

Hearing my libertarian daddy (or, obamacon/ obamican to be hip) one night sputtering “but! white trash! from wasilla!” (Incidentally, wasalla in arabic means washerwoman… ok, I found it amusing…) I took it upon myself to pen him a little note for his friend, who had picked up on the McCain camp’s latest rhetoric, and was protesting, “But he’s a socialist!”

He liked it, and decided to send it to all his friends.

Unfortunately, those who choose to be blind will not be swayed; but, just in case, here it is, for your forwarding pleasure.

p.s. Lucky for us Biden is no Eagleton, so we can get some sleep….And I’m lucky enough to live in Greece, where the political situation has become so amusing, that I check out New Democracy’s land buying/selling travails for comic relief. It really works, too… (The only boy who could ever reach me/ was the son of the postman, and so on…)

If you have a friend who likes McCain, you may wish to send him the note below.
Dear Friend,

  • “Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society.” (wikipedia)

This is a general definition of socialism. As with all theories, it is very nice and utopian. Unfortuantely, the human race is such – as all countries show – that, whether a communist government is in charge or a capitalist one, the end result is the same. Those in power protect themselves and their friends always – populace be damned. And they always try to cover their asses when something goes wrong.

Therefore, the more power a government concentrates, the more change and/or damage it can bring about. So, the logical thing for a person – who is lucky enough to be able to choose who to vote for – is to think, who can be trusted with this power that I will give them? No politician is pure, so how do I choose? How do I see through the campaign bullshit? What am I looking for?

I think the main thing to look for in the leader of any country is someone with integrity, intelligence, empathy, humility, ability to see many sides of a matter, ability to choose a good team, to be able to listen, to inspire, to be calm and far-seeing. The best thing you can say about a president is to say, “He was good for the country – as a whole.”

Not one of these characteristics can be matched to McCain’s don’t-question-me-I’m-a-war-hero personality. And they called Romney a flip-flopper? Truly, his choosing an agent of uneducated intolerance (if you remember, those were his words in 2000 regarding Falwell et al) with the ugliest, trashiest, most divisive political rhetoric I have heard in years, makes me sick.

It also proves that McCain is a man with no integrity – he just wants to win the prize of President (since he was too incompetent to make admiral) no matter what. That, to me, is extremely scary.

As to McCain’s last ditch effort – I am sorry that you do not see through their crying socialist wolf.

The amazing thing about the new GOP is that they fit in with this definition of socialism exactly – apart from its actual aim. An egalitarian society is really none of their concern.

They advocate state ownership and administration to further their own gains and oedipal interests – to boldly go where no Bush has gone before. And just like China, North Korea, the Soviet Union, and Joe McCarthy – if you dare criticize us, you are not a patriot. You are anti-country.

Actually, the antics of this party are more anti-American than Sarah Palin (who thinks that she has power over the Senate) can imagine in her wildest dreams. Where is the patriotism in suspending habeas corpus? Copying your hard drive if you bring your laptop to the airport? Allowing government to listen in on private phone conversations or read private email messages without court orders? Lying to the people in order to go off to to play 1-billion-$-a-day hide-and-seek in Iraq?

But that is not the fault of the Bush Administration – that is the people’s fault for believing that all this is done in the name of national security and safety, therefore no one opens their mouth to say “Hey, we are wandering over to the totalitarian side of the fence, y’all … We are turning into what we are ‘protecting’ ourselves from”. As to finance, then no honest capitalist government would not have lifted a finger to save any corporation – it would have just shrugged its shoulders and let heads roll.

To not excercise your right to vote – that is one thing. But to vote for John McCain? No, I cannot understand that.


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And now for something completely different: My mother, Vice President of the U.S. (and so can you)

September 8, 2008 at 5:26 pm (Politics) (, , , , , , )

OK, Dajieblack is royally pissed off.

I sent a letter to the New York Times, in regards to their 158th article regarding Sarah Palin.

I was extremely polite and non-abusive. I did not call her Charlton Heston in a skirt. I did not say that it’s kinda hypocritical to shoot, kill, skin & eat a live being, then call youself pro-life. I certainly didn’t say that religion has been an excuse for war & oppression since man invented the Gods, and therefore should be quarantined (preferably, in Alaska) until wars cease to exist.

Nor did I crow over the striking similarities of Jamie Lynn Spears – who was literally skewered and served with oregano – and Bristol Palin. (I was confident that all the rabid “morality” voters would disavow the lying, hypocritical, holier-than-thou Ma Palin without my 2 cents.)

They didn’t print it!!! Please, please, somebody explain to me where it is off-topic and abusive. Where??? I must be blind. They have 800 comments per article on Palin, and this is offensive?? How? Where? I didn’t even say the word abortion, dammit!

Please advise. Thanks. Here it is:

Dear Sirs:

My mom is a great person, extremely clever & personable, with a sterling & steely character. (My dad and I tease her that if she had lived in Nazi Germany she would have been a Hitler Youth leader.)

But I don’t think she should be vice president. I know we’re taught from kindergarten that the greatness of this country is that anyone can be president, but come on.

I also know America is going through an extremely anti-intellectual period where university degrees are anathema, and all politicians have to do are smile their fluorescent Colgate smile and drink beers and bowl.

But that is the fast track to permanent decadence, and the decline of this country into poverty and ridicule. It would be nice to identify with my president, but I would much rather he/she were smarter than me; I want to say, “Wow, you know so much, your conversation rocks!” And, “Wow, how do you handle yourself so well with all sorts of people? Your communication skills are magical!”

I want to proudly proclaim: How logical and practical my president is! My president doesn’t get all excited and sidetracked by morality issues, or tell us how to live.

Our president should inspire us to be better people, to achieve more, and to love our neighbor, whether he is Charlon Heston or Priscilla, queen of the desert.

So, I will not ever vote for someone like Sarah Palin for anything beyond Mayor. It is a vote for – I quote from “Amadeus” – “Mediocrity! I salute you!” She is not even an example of affirmative action; she is being used as a puppet of the worst kind.

She may be clever, personable, a fighter, and have many more admirable qualities. But, like it or not, our President, Vice President, and the Cabinet need to have a semblence of qualifications that Sarah Palin does not have. People in high-ranking positions are not supposed to be like your mom, or hapless Uncle Harry.

And, because important people become role models – well, Juno was a cute movie, but what kind of example would our Vice President be to girls? Get knocked up before you finish high school, and destroy the best years of your life? (at least Juno gave it up to continue her carefree existence) Or just have unprotected sex, and don’t worry, mommy will take care of it? Or, worse, mommy is a social conservative in politics, so will force you to get married to your babe-in-arms, or else?

I’m getting 12th century goosebumps all over.

Dajie Black

Athens, Greece

I also posted it on the Economist’s website – and they took it off! Which is even more insane, because the Economist (with its libertarian live-and-let-live philosophy) lets everybody abuse each other, no matter how gaily off-topic they are. In their March article All At Sea regarding Greece, Macedonia and their name troubles, the comments were about whether Methodius and Cyril were Greek, or spoke Greek, and “Tremble, snooty Greeks we’re a-coming!!” and so on. The Greeks, naturally gave as good as they got, turning the forum into – for the most part – an ugly, uninformed, macho brawl with awful spelling.

Where, pray tell, is the abuse in my letter? I specifically tried not to sound like a college-loving liberal – ok, maybe I failed at that. But I truly believe that the more knowledge you have about anything – first-hand, second-hand, accredited or not – the better you become as a person. Open-minded. Able to converse. To think in diverse ways.  To have empathy.

Even if Sarah Palin was Governor of Alaska for the last 20 years, she lacks everything needed in a diplomat. And that is what everyone who works at the White House is. They are go-betweens, smoothers-over, hand-shakers, and problem-solvers. The president serves as uber-diplomat #1, and sets the tone for the rest.

This is a woman who, having university qualifications for an internship at best, wanted to deny her fellow-Wasillans access to certain books that she deemed bad! I didn’t call her Hitler, either, but with that action alone, she is more like him than any other inexperienced politician I can think of.

I am just a human being who believes that any and all extremists (left or right) should never have more power than a toll booth on a highway. They are annoying, they slow you down, but you drive on and forget about them – until the next one comes along and asks for your money – no pennies, please.

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No Fulbright For You, Gazan…

June 3, 2008 at 12:12 pm (Politics) (, , , )

Yes, it’s just another great day for peace in the Middle East.


I come from a background where the house religion was that of Education.  The fervent belief that the more educated you are, the more the world will smile upon you, has been drummed into me from an early age.  Equally, I was taught that in education, meritocracy is king.  If you work hard and are deserving, there is nothing that can stand in the way of your success.

The temple of this religion lies, naturally, in the hallowed halls of American universities.  That is where we look to for hope and guidance; the direction of our Mecca is west and covered with Ivy.

Therefore, to me, Fulbright scholarships being taken away from those that rightfully earned them is akin to Catholic priests molesting cherubic altar boys.  We may tactfully look away when Father O’Leary downs his third sherry in five minutes, (religion, by definition, is imperfect) but here is an outright betrayal of all we hold dear, and cannot be ignored.

I have always admired how spunky and powerful a 2.2%  (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/usjewpop.html) of the US’s population can be if it so chooses.  Drive is an admirable quality.  Cowardliness is not.  America is guilty of the latter.

President Bush is the latest in a line of American presidents who dream of going down in history as the One who resolved the Middle East peace crisis.  In January, he stated that it would be his mission to have a peace deal signed by January of 2009. He also “issued a stern warning to both♣ sides not to do anything which breaks promises they have already made, or which might make negotiations more difficult. (italics are mine.)

♣ [To ignore the fact that there are three, and not two sides to the matter dooms it before it can even begin.  While it is certainly easier to negotiate only with Fatah involved (at least they recognize Israel’s right to existence), Hamas remains in charge of Gaza, having been democratically elected, and that is just the stark reality of things.  But, that is another article…]

Clearly, this Fulbright fiasco falls squarely into the making-negotiations-more-difficult category.  And it is such an ideal opportunity to do real, as well as photo-op good.  But America was so powerless (let us ignore for the moment the existence of Kosovo) that it could not even manage to bring this act of goodwill to fruition.  Or prevail upon Israel to do so.  Iran and North Korea must be shivering in their boots.

This is not the way to show integrity, dedication, or objectivity; all, qualities a mediator must have.  Most of all, the two or three or four sides must trust the mediator.  Else, he should just pack up and retire to Crawford.

And as for Israel itself?  For, one may ask, why must America insist on being Israel’s and Palestine’s keeper?  Why can they not work it out themselves?  Why can they just not throw out the preconceived notions of 1948 and 1967 and take a good look at reality in 2008? Take a deep breath, and just go on from there?

That is even more depressing than America’s bumblings and double standards.

Sixty years ago, a diverse people held together by their ancient religion and suffering argued for their right to nationhood in their ancestral homeland.  This was freely given, though not by the people who actually lived there.   And now? In the same blood-soaked piece of desert, there is a people who share the same religion, suffering, and barbed-wire apartheid.  How shocking that that the righteous sufferers of old are the ones holding the whip, and overusing it with glee.

Israel is acting perfectly rationally, like any small and selfish child in its position would do.  Like a latter-day Khruschev, it bangs its shoe on the negotiating table, and yells, “I was oppressed for years and years! I was slaughtered! I was discriminated against!”  The subtext here being, “And now, it’s your turn, neighbor. Watch your back, for I am in charge of Lady Justice’s good smiting hand.”  So it goes. Perfect symmetry.  After a few thousand years, the circle has reached its starting point.

The sad thing is,  I am sure that there are many non-extremist Israelis that honestly believe that if they give an inch, raging hoards of suicide bombers will descend on Tel Aviv.  The thought of killing and oppressing others doesn’t sit so well with their left-of-center western intellectual beliefs, but they raise their hands in the air and fatalistically say, “What can we do? If we don’t protect ourselves in this way we are doomed!  They must learn that there will be retribution, and will give up – or suffer the consequences.”

If this was any other country speaking, I might have some empathy.  But not for Israel. How can they willfully forget what the Jews have withstood?  For two thousand years, often under the worst of circumstances, they kept their religion and traditions alive.  The more desperate the times, the more obstinate the resistance.  No, sir, I will not convert.  Burn my temple, go ahead.  I will remain inside clutching my Torah.  I will die for it.  Remember the Warsaw ghetto? It resisted the Nazis longer than the whole of Poland.  Proudly, do the Jews recount these and other tales.

But slowly, insidiously, and – I guess, – inevitably they have turned from oppressed to oppressor.  Yet, how can they expect the Palestinians to just roll over and comply?  Why would they give up their dream of Palestine when the Jews did not?  Why should they not desire equal opportunities and freedom? And will Israelis dare complain when these seven kids, who have played by the rules in order to achieve their pursuit of happiness, pick up a grenade and blow themselves up in a disco?  Does Israel give anybody any choice in Gaza other than extremism?

Collective punishment only brings victims even closer together; anybody who has ever attended school knows this.  And when teacher is deemed as unfair and prejudiced; well, she’ll never have a moment’s peace.  Inspiration is needed.  A view of a flickering light at the end of the tunnel would do more damage to extremists than a nuclear bomb.  But America and Israel seem to not even have the skills of a kindergarten teacher.

By not letting these kids leave, who are not guilty of anything other than being Palestinian and living in Gaza, Israel (and America)  are committing a disastrous diplomatic faux-pas.  Israel “proves” that it does not want to solve anything, that it is a bully, and that it leads America by the nose.  And America?  It proves beyond a doubt that it is the biggest hypocrite in the world.

Like Eliot Spitzer, so go the rest of the country’s ruling elite; there is nothing more disgusting than pretending to be so much more ideologically and morally above the rest, shoving that democracy spoon down everyone’s throat until they are sick, and then being caught with your pants down in a cheap brothel with no condom.

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The Eastern Question: Letter to the Economist

April 18, 2008 at 3:28 pm (Politics) (, , , )

Dear Sirs:

As usual, whenever an article about Greece is printed in the Economist, I am led to wonder what your sources are. Whatever the topic, your articles are uniformly one-sided and show a stunning lack of knowledge of the reality of any given situation.

Nobody knows better than Greek businessmen what “great strides” have been made in Macedonia in the last few years.  They are the chief investors in the country’s burgeoning economy.

And it is laughable to fault “Greek nationalists” for Greece’s veto; I do not recall any other time in which Greece’s polarizing political parties have been so unified on a single issue.  From the far-left to the far-right everyone has been supportive of the largely unpopular government’s actions.

Certainly, this unity should give some food for thought to any journalist covering the situation.  I know that regional politics are small fry compared to US elections, wars, food shortages, and the general “big picture”, but if you insist on covering and offering opinions on them, you should be a bit more well-read and less trigger-happy with your analysis.

Nothing is ever so simple as it seems.  Your article (All at sea, April 10th 2008) is saying, in effect, look at this nice little country which is trying its best to become like us civilized types, and stingy, nasty Greece won’t let it.

I was vaguely of that opinion; more specifically, I felt it logical for a province that has known itself by a certain name to keep that name upon asserting its statehood. Usually, countries change their name only if they had been oppressed by the previous regime.

However, I cannot help but find it disturbing, when symbols of another day and age (and historically ascribed to the heritage of Greece) adopted by this country as their own. Why the flag of Vergina? (Vergina is a city situated in Greece; the tombs of Philip and the revamped Macedonian museum are there.) Why should the current prime minister lay a wreath in front of a map showing Macedonia’s border reaching to the Aegean? Why do their history books state that Pella is not the Pella of Greece (Philip II’s birthplace) but a valley located inside the modern-day Macedonian Republic?

These actions do not point to a squeaky-clean little country trying to create a bright future for itself.  Rather, it seems like their discovery of American support (who are, in turn, scrabbling madly to find new yes-men in the area) has led them to become cocksure, arrogant, and disrespectful of their neighbors and investors.

I understand the need for a national identity, and I am sure that Alexander had close ties to the region;  but he went all the way to India, and had a particular regard for Persia. He belongs to everybody that he conquered; including the Egyptians, who are very proud of their own city of Alexandria.

There cannot have a dearth of history between the 3rd century BC and 1992; true, the region was occupied by many and never existed as an independent country. Still, there must be something else (especially for the ethnic Albanian population) to use as a national symbol, to bring this new country the internal harmony it so obviously needs.

As to the events of 1948, Greece was undergoing a brutal civil war at the time, and any one suspected or found to be a communist was either killed or deported or jailed by the government forces. Thousands of families of every ethnic origin have tragic tales of woe to tell regarding this black period of Greek history. (As do those families who were destroyed in 1922, 1913, and so on.)

I can only assume that because the Greek communists were acting upon their dreams of the USSR as an ally (they had no idea that Stalin had agreed -under the 1944 Percentages Agreement- to give Greece to the UK’s sphere of influence) that Greek Slavs were more attracted to the Communist way of thinking than the Nationalist-Royalist; thus, more of them were hurt by the eventual Nationalist triumph and backlash.

But this is the Balkans. We who live here know how quickly one can turn from aggressor to victim and back again; and we know the Ancient Greek, Latin, Turkish, Pontic, and Slavic names of any city you care to ask us about. Our history is intertwined, and continues to be so; to ignore that fact is hypocritical to the extreme. This is the reality of the sad, confusing, and exciting past of the Balkans.

And that is why Macedonia’s posturing and self-righteousness strikes me as a completely cynical attempt to take advantage of the current American favor they enjoy. They must at all costs keep the country together and not show the cracks to NATO and the EU; what better way to than to shift attention to the masquerade of who can claim Alexander the Great as their own?

I take my hat off to them, for they are proving extremely adept at playing politics. Certainly better than Greece ever has. So, by all means, let them try to win Alexander; just don’t condemn Greece for playing the game with equal intensity.


dajieblack’s two cents on the question of Macedonia has been sent to the desk of my favorite-magazine-in-the-world’s editor…. she also posted it on the online version as a comment to the original article….I await nationalist attacks (of either country) with glee!

April 30, 2008: dajieblack is sad.  nobody at the economist’s forum wanted to play with her.  they preferred debating cyril’s, methodius’s and bucephalus’s origins. with horrid grammar. sniff.

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Athens, Barcelona, and the Civilization of it All

April 4, 2008 at 4:43 pm (Politics, Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , )

“Come on, they’re not gonna step on you! Zebra crossings are sacred here!”

“Absolutely not,” I retorted. Madmen. Maybe in England they don’t run you over, but a speeding Spaniard? My mad friends tugged at my unwilling hand and lo! the speeding Spaniard slowed to a perfect stop. Not a wheel over the sacred white lines. They all did so. All week! Was this because it was Easter? Which they don’t even celebrate in Catalonia anymore – I was assured of this by all of the South Americans I met – but, perhaps, an innate feeling of piety and goodwill remains nonetheless? Ha. Fat chance. The definitely un-Christian gleam in the Vueling Check-in Girl’s eyes as she demanded 16 euros because I was 2 kilos over the limit (BItchBitchBITCH! I breathing-exercised) killed that thought.

A real Greek would have brought his carefully chosen Monestir de Tallat merlot over her head, (It is our Right as the Cradle of Democracy and/or Civilization to bring as much shit from foreign lands as we can carry… often buying an extra suitcase in the process) but I am an emasculated, overly polite, faux-EuroAmerican, resigned to being conned and bullshitted and saying Thank You Very Much…

So, the only rebellion I managed was to make her repeat everything she said in English. Now, you may not think this is much, but she fumed as I (who had previously conversed pleasantly in ItaloSpanish with her) kept saying, “What? Where? What?” with an idiotic cow’s gaze. Take that, you crypto-Teutonic bitch! Retaliation came swiftly. I was punished by 3 hours of turbulence.

Angrily certain that the baggage compartment was being flooded by the litres of Iberian wine being brought over, I sulked, pushing my chair as far back in the lap of the unfortunate gentleman behind me as it would go. Leg room is not a Spanish word. Neither is belly room. No wonder there were no Americans on board. The bottles, I knew, were being broken on purpose by the pilot; he was most certainly in on it all. No doubt he is banging the small-eyed Prussian behind the check-in counter.

It is all a conspiracy at the expense of our highly developed Greek consumer culture. You came, paid handsomely for the fun our city has to offer – now really pay for having vastly superior olive oil. Sneaky little buggers. Didn’t see that one coming. I actively enjoyed hunting down the edgy boutique I knew must exist somewhere in Raval. Most victoriously did I lay down my euros when I discovered it. Funiculars, museums, and restaurants did not satisfy my lust for purse-drainage. I needed Stuff. There is Stuff everywhere in Barcelona. Traveler, you have been warned. They have lots of Stuff and they are very civilized. (Quite unlike the Parisians. Cue gnashing of teeth at the recollection of Isle S. Louis’s devil-in-a-cheese-seller’s-guise.)

I constantly marveled at how civilized the Spanish (or, Catalans, more precisely) were. They have solved their transportation problems so efficiently that they were even left with a budget surplus. And thought, what should we do with it? Put it in our pockets? Give some to our mistress for a pied a terre in the Barri Gothic? Keep it for The Party? A yacht, perhaps? (All perfectly natural ideas to a Greek.) Nope.

They did this:

Feeling like i was in Sweden, I watched, amazed, as a bus went by. It was normal, yet not quite. It had plush chairs with armrests, little tables, and large, living room lamps. It looked like a posh bar on wheels. My friends explained that it was a normal bus; you simply pay a little extra for that added comfort. Mostly used by senior citizens. Cruelly unaware of their masterplan for all tourists, (especially those blessed with better olive trees) I was enthralled, entertaining the idea that perhaps I, also, deserve to live in a civilized city. Do I not have the right to cruise Panepistimiou Avenue in an armchair?

After never being run over once, I figured it’s because they’re northern Spaniards, they must have a little more Saxon blood in them than is Mediterraneanly acceptable. I became sure of this when, in even the most underground bars, the music was abruptly shut off and every light in the place was turned on at 3am precisely. The first time this happened, I was ready to flee, certain the police were on to us. Later, I cursed the UK flashbacks (ding-dong – last drinks – please leave the premises) this caused me. I waited to join in a drunken backlash with the rest of the customers. In vain.

These indefatigable Catalans had even changed the driving persona of my friend. One year in civilization, and he was driving like your grandmother. When he gave me his car to play with he was nervy, urging me to stay on the right and to not cut people off. This, from the man who taught me to run red lights and u-turn wherever I wished!

I felt like a third-world citizen, whose friends had moved on to running water and I was still lugging buckets from the well. The day before I arrived in Barcelona , upmarket Athenian salons and restaurants were being berated by their clients for not having thought of buying a generator. Tightly-lipped maitre d’ apologized profusely instead of screaming, “How the fuck could I have imagined the (government-owned) electricity company would strike for weeks and cut our power at regular intervals??”

Panic and hate prevailed on our traffic light-less streets. Hunching forward, hand on the gears, I assumed battle pose and dexterously avoided destroying my vehicle, leaving my unlucky co-citizens to cry and sue over their own scattered debris.

We don’t have night buses or enough asphalt to fit us all with our 4 cars per family, we are destroying what is left of clean rivers and forests, our fake fast internet chucks us offline at whim, inflation, government MIA, and so on and on and so on, and “po-tee-weet!”, sings the bird in slaughter-house 5; the only news fit to print in the months of December and January were the failed suicide attempt of the portly secretary of of the Ministry of Culture and his saucy DVD.

It requires a daily column and a bottle of raki to rue the woes of this land, but still. I can drive any way I damn please, and I’ve got the best raw material in food in the world. Ok, the divine mango is to be found only in Egypt; but that is not strange at all, for they are as uncivilized as we, and more so, for their fruits are the equivalent of celestial harps playing in heaven…. but I digress. It is a proven fact that the more civilized a nation is, the less tasty is their food. The question really is: how much “civilization” am I willing to take? How much privacy and individuality shall I trade for Comfort? Can’t I have my cake and eat it, too?

But, to put some things in perspective, Miss Landmine 2008 of Angola (dream job, “anything”) surely cannot feel my fake existential angst; she has the real deal. Hopping like a lunatic on her one remaining leg, she cackles, juggling her tomatoes and watching our national obsession of obstructing pension plan reform at all and any cost.

“H gh 8a tremei, o ilios anatelei!!” is belted out by 15-year-old supporters of PaSok in the metro; a lively debate between two grannies ensues. I curse at not having my camera on me as I leave, smiling.

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Pathetique? Obama gets a few tips from Dajieblack…

March 5, 2008 at 11:23 pm (Politics) (, , , , , , )

I admit it! I’m Obsessed. Capital O, with a capital P for get-a-fucking-life-Pathetic-much??

I can’t help it. This is better than the Sopranos. ZZZZZZZZZing!! Giuliani down. KAPUT!! Romney bites the dust.

What the fuck am I going to do until Pennsylvania??

I have never been so excited by a living political persona ever. I actually believe all the crap he says. I want to give him some acting lessons so that he can be even better. (He’s got the monologue thing down, but his dialogue skills could use a little honing.) Change, working together, transcending race, bigotry…..sigh! I think it’s because I have always wanted to be an 18-year-old in 1968, the last time this country felt the “sweeping inevitability of change” – I know, I know, only to be squashed by the existence of the Moral Majority. And 1972.

I think I would have committed suicide if I had been working for George McGovern back then. (By the way, there is no greater socio-politico-counterculturo-o-whatever book than Hunter S. Thompson’s On the Campaign Trail ’72.) And then the 1970s in general. Let’s not even talk about the 1980s. No, scratch that. Perhaps I’m being unfair. Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” was quite exciting. Ah, fuck it, I can only speak for my own experiences, and apart from a wide-eyed and ignorant excitement in fourth grade’s 1988 election, my adult life has been thoroughly disgusted and/or left indifferent by politicians. Even my admiration for the debating skills of the British Parliament (which put Americans to shame; where do they learn all those words?) did not translate into admiration for any particular politician.

But now?

Completely and utterly immersed Dajie is. So much so… that….um…. well…. I wrote to the official Obama headquarters!!!!! (at least, I think it was official.)

I’m so embarrassed. And excited! Stumbling, bleary-eyed into my father’s office this morning, before drinking coffee or even washing my face, I growled to him, “What happened in Ohio? Did we get Texas?” Slight hysteria ensued. My fever helped keep me from doing anything serious, so I read and watched everything I could find on the Hillary and Barack Show (with a foray into Afghanistan as seen by Bill O’Reilly).

I am taking this campaign personally for some reason. Shrugging her shoulders, her newspaper persusal left her with a sense of dread. She had the uneasy feeling that Barack was not doing enough to counter the amazing – welded with diamonds, pyrex and titanium – Mrs. Clinton. Not content with commenting on a NY Times article, I googled Barack headquarters and wrote the following.

I feel better now.

Dear Sirs:

It is patently obvious that being nice gets you nowhere. John McCain was lucky this year only because the Bush Dynasty Machine was on hiatus; otherwise he would have been as clobbered as in 2000. That year he should have been the GOP candidate, as well as possibly the president. Now, it’s a little too late for that.

He’s a sweet great-uncle (who secretly gave you your first taste of whiskey) to Hillary Clinton’s wicked stepmother (who can manage to send you crying into your closet with just a smile). Who, in their right minds, would not prefer to vote for him? (I can’t even imagine drinking a beer with Mrs. Clinton.)

Now, McCain was free to Straight Talk this year, but Mr. Obama is not. Niceness will get you nowhere when you are up against the Orwellian Mrs. Clinton, who, by gaining a last gasp of air in Ohio, thinks she has a mandate; she reminds me of Greece’s PASOK party, who lose an election and manage to convince us that they won it.

I believe Mr. Obama would be the finest president America has had in a long time. Someone fresh and new and untainted. What’s more, America is bleeding on all fronts; She doesn’t deserve any more incompetence and hypocrisy and jadedness.

But that is moot. Ideology is insignificant when the uneducated-i-believe-in-tv citizens can destroy a man’s campaign by believing that he has an illegitimate black child! To me, Clinton is the Antichrist of false feminism, the fakest (Romney come back, all is forgiven!) politician I have ever seen, the 5th grade teacher I managed to elude. But she seems to have an ability to tap into and exploit the inner masochist inside many ordinary Americans.

For Mr. Obama to win, he must play and beat Mrs. Clinton at her own game. Hold your nose and wade in the mud with her; else, be left on the pier wondering, where did it all go wrong?

And he must convince the people of his party of the truth:

There is no chance in Bible Belt Hell that Mrs. Clinton can beat Mr. McCain. None. She has won the very states that the GOP will carry with ease come November. If she wins the nomination, the entire GOP will feel like the second coming has arrived.

While incomprehensible to me, it is very possible that after the disaster of this Bush Administration we will have another Republican president. Mind-boggling, that the GOP can be so canny as to let the only untainted member of their party win the nomination, and the Democrats are whining about sexism, racism, media-ism. Wake up! It is not about that. Don’t get mired in the 1960s politics you bash.

Be practical. Flirt with Brutal Realism.

How can you be so silly as not to hit her with her “35 years of experience” from the very first moment it left her mouth? I was dying of laughter on the floor when she first said it; now it’s the main theme of her campaign!! The hypocrisy of her Florida/Michigan delegate comments? She “delivered” Florida and Michigan? Kind of hard not to, seeing as you’re the only name on the ballot?? The way she changes her positions (Poor Romney was but an amateur) in order to pander to the Democratic Party establishment, Bush, the working-class, feminists, her own “I’m not a stand by your man kind of woman” statement; how quickly the promise of a Senate seat dissipated those feelings! Her calling in of Hispanic favors, gamely squeezing out a dry tear, anything at all, in fact, is ok in order to fulfill her unfulfilled craving for power. Being ambitious is not the problem. Augustus knows, I have always admired Livia’s ruthlessness. But someone so power-hungry as the leader of such a broken country? Thanks, but no thanks.

Me? I’m voting for Nader, if Clinton get the nod. My Reagan-worshipping-Wall-Street-Journal-Economist-adoring Daddy? He’d love to vote for Barack Obama; otherwise, he won’t even bother to.



P.S. To fire you up, I propose boogie-ing to Edwin Starr’s “War” for your new campaign song… never fails!!

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